Onus on batsmen to save pride
Skipper Dhoni doubtful for Kotla match; Pakistan look to complete a rare whitewash
The forgettable winter stretch is far from over for a bruised and fatigued Indian team, who now faces the ignominy of a series whitewash, and their last chance to salvage some pride rests at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Sunday.
The performance of the Indian team has plummeted alarmingly in recent times. They had barely come to terms with the Test series loss to England, when Pakistan inflicted fresh wounds. The defeats at Chennai and Kolkata meant that the world champions succumbed to their first ODI series loss in three years. But the manner of their surrender was more painful.
The much-vaunted Indian batting line up are struggling to forge partnerships. For all the flak that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has drawn, it is he alone who is guiding the ship. The Indian captain, with 167 runs in two matches, has shown the heart to fight in difficult times, carving a masterly century at Chennai, and following it up with another unbeaten half century at the Eden Gardens. But then contributions of an individual can hardly make-up for the failures of others in a team sport!
The Indian batting has been below par ever since the England Test series. In fact, the consistency in top order is missing since the high of World Cup in 2011. That its top order was in abysmal form was revealed the way India lost its five batsmen before 100 in both the one-day matches against Pakistan.
There is no denying that Pakistan’s left-arm pacers Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan have got disconcerting bounce to trouble Indian batsmen. But the seniors have not shown enough application in the middle. Virender Sehwag has scored only 35 in two matches while Gautam Gambhir amassed a princely 19. The form of these two experienced openers has severely affected India’s run gathering. The two will be banking on their home ground, Kotla, to prove their value to the selectors, who are meeting here on Sunday to pick the team for forthcoming ODI series against England.
The middle order, too, has looked brittle. Virat Kohli is searching for the purple patch of the previous year, Yuvraj Singh is still shaky and Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma have not done enough to instill confidence. Questions are being asked why a batsman like Ajinkya Rahane is still waiting for his chance. In comparison, the bowling, often the chink in the Indian armour, has fared better. In Kolkata, Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja did well to bring India back after Pakistan openers breezed to 141. UP pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar too has shown the spark and Ashok Dinda is learning fast the nuances of his craft.
But Pakistan batsmen have been able to find their way despite some spells of struggle. Nasir Jamshed has flourished with two back-to-back centuries. Jamshed has got a solid company in Mohammad Hafeez at the top. Former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik has added solidity to the middle order.
The nippy weather will assist swing and there’s promise of some bounce too in the Kotla pitch. Notwithstanding, Pakistan’s two straight wins, the stakes is high for both the teams. For Pakistan, it serves an opportunity to treat their folks with a rare whitewash against the arch-rivals. For the host, it will be a challenge to halt Pakistan’s winning spree.